International Festival of Attention-Getters – Alaska, US

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Wish I’d had to travel to Alaska to meet Jennifer Lynch (I’ve been wanting to experience Alaska for years!) but our paths crossed in the southeastern part of the United States where we both now teach. Jennifer is a Media Center Specialist in an elementary school that also serves a Pre-K population.

Ms. Lynch shows books about Alaska.

Jennifer was born and raised around Anchorage. She attended Fire Lake Elementary School (I love that name!) from Kindergarten, when Jennifer first knew that she wanted to be a teacher, to Grade 6. Alaska, she says, is just now converting to the middle school structure of grades 6 – 8 that is used in most states.

When I asked Jennifer to recall tools and tricks that any of her K – 5 teachers used effectively to catch and keep her attention she first mentioned the rhythmic clapping of Mrs. Kincaid in Kindergarten. A smile spreading across her face, Jennifer quickly added that her mother was amazed at how well Mrs. Kincaid commanded attention with such a simple strategy! As a parent, Jennifer’s mother obviously felt good about leaving her daughter in Mrs. Kincaid’s hands. NOTE to teachers…maybe an obvious one, but we all get so busy that we can sometimes forget this…it’s good to put yourself in the shoes of parents and your students as you make your classroom plans.

Teachers also put themselves in the shoes of teachers who serve as role models – educators that have made a positive impact on their lives. One of Jennifer’s models was her fifth grade teacher, Bob Petit. He had success in his classroom, as does Jennifer in her media center, with students working in small groups. Jennifer uses small group instruction when she’s teaching technology, reading-related and library skills. “I remember how engaged we all were in small group work with Mr. Petit,” she says. “During a unit on geography, for example, he’d have us in peer discussions using raised relief maps (pre-cursor to Google Earth)

Ms. Lynch demonstrates learning by doing.

so that we could learn by touching and discussing. It was literally hands on.” Jennifer demonstrates this teaching technique in my blog pic here.

Pulling from her own elementary school experience, Jennifer uses a quick rhythmic command – “One, two…” to which students reply…”Eyes on you!” from the same ballpark as Mrs. Kincaid to catch her students’ attention. To keep kids focused on learning, Jennifer draws from Mr. Petit’s teaching tricks. She says, “I try not to be the focus for the whole lesson. I want the students to be actively learning, doing some kind of activity in small groups so they can talk with each other, learn from each other, and learn how to work with people, even those with whom they might not get along.”

Mapping out strategies to help children prepare for the global marketplace – maps –  raised relief and other kinds – are some of the coolest tools. I recently read about Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the founding editor of National Geographic magazine. He’s credited with saying, “A map is the greatest of all epic poems. Its lines and colors show the realization of great dreams.” Maps today come in so many different versions – print, 3-d, online and interactive – great opportunities for your students to explore the world.

Jennifer pointed to Alaska on the world map during our conversation. I pictured myself there as she described her childhood winters. Families that live near Anchorage enjoy five to six hours of daylight as the calendar inches towards the Equinox. Elementary school buildings are constructed of concrete and wood, not brick, because brick cracks in the bitter cold. Recess is outside unless the temperature hits 10 degrees or below. “Kids come knowing they need snow gear,” explains Jennifer, “and everybody goes outside – no excuses.” “If a kid forgets gloves, he or she is told to borrow some from lost and found, ” she continues. “When I was a kid, I went to school in the dark each morning and I came home at dusk. Children played outdoors after school in the dark.” 

Hummm…an Alaska native living and teaching in the southeastern US. Do you suppose that one of Jennifer’s best tricks has been her relocation to warmer climes?

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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